Falling for Pumpkins

These fruits of the vine are versatile and spice up recipes for everything from soup to dessert.

Once fall makes its crisp and colorful entrance, our minds turn to pumpkins! Oh how we love those pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin donuts drizzled with cinna-mon glaze, pumpkin bread, smooth pumpkin yogurt frappes and everything else pumpkin.

There was a time when pumpkin, a cultivar of the squash plant, was relegated to pie, but now pumpkin has come out of the patch to become a tasty ingredient for so many foods from soups to desserts.

If you are a pumpkin fan and love to cook with them, be sure to choose the right ones; look for those labeled sugar or pie pumpkins. Some of these varieties have endearing names like Baby Pam, Ghost Rider, Fairy Tale and Cinderella. Sugar pumpkins are the most readily available. Their small size makes them perfect for cooking because of their firm, less stringy and sweet flesh.

There are endless ways to cook pumpkins; one of the most popular is roasting slices and basting with maple syrup until they caramelize. Creamy pumpkin soup is delicious on a cool autumn day, and so easy to purée with an immersion blender or food processor. Risotto gets a new look and taste when made with diced pumpkin. Slow-cooking chunks of pumpkin with other fall vegetables—such as kale, onions and potatoes—makes for a healthy vegetable stew or chili. Pumpkin is also showing up in colorful and smartly dressed salads and Buddha bowls. Of course, you can also use pumpkin in baking your favorite pie, scones, breads, cookies or muffins. Save those pumpkin seeds for an added bonus: roast them with coarse salt, and you have a healthy snack or salad topping.

Pumpkins can be stored in a cool place for up to two months. This is not to say that canned pumpkin is inferior. It is a convenient and go-to staple for many cooks at Thanksgiving, for pies, mousses and cakes.

Pumpkin is really good for you. It is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. Pumpkin is also potassium rich, which is believed to help control blood pressure.

There’s no denying it; pumpkins play a lead role in the fall. So as soon as you spot a carpet patch of vast deep orange, stop and admire this enduring symbol of the waning days of the year.

Favorite pumpkin recipes: